Source: Georgia Star News, by Debra Heine, June 17, 2021
Fox 26 reporter Ivory Hecker told Project Veritas founder James O’Keefe that the Fox affiliate moved to muzzle her reporting on Hydroxychloroquine because it went against “the corporate narrative,” which has allegedly been influenced by Fox’s advertisers, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and vaccine companies.
Hecker said that the station’s leadership prioritizes corporate interests over the viewers, and that she didn’t want to be a part of it anymore. “I want out of this narrative news-telling, I want out of this corruption,” she said.
“From the inside? Yes, there’s a narrative, yes, it is unspoken, but if you accidentally step outside the narrative, if you don’t sense what that narrative is and go with it, there will be grave consequences,” Hecker told O’Keefe.
The veteran reporter was suspended on Tuesday after announcing live on-air yesterday that she had decided to blow the whistle on the Houston Fox affiliate’s corruption with the help of Project Veritas.
“The viewers are being deceived by a carefully crafted narrative in some stories,” she complained.
Hecker secretly recorded the Assistant News Director, Lee Meier, talking about passing on a story based on racial demographics—specifically a story about Bitcoin because the “poor African-American audience” that watches the 5:00 news apparently doesn’t care about Bitcoin.
In another recording Hecker provided to Project Veritas, Fox 26’s VP and News Director, Susan Schiller, can be heard telling her to “cease and desist” posting about Hydroxychloroquine on social media.
“What’s happening within Fox Corp is an operation of prioritizing corporate interests above the viewer’s interest and, therefore, operating in a deceptive way,” she added. “Viewers are being deceived about some of the things that are going on.”
Last summer, Hecker covered a story featuring a local doctor who had promoted Hydroxychloroquine during a press conference. Dr. Stella Immanuel had effusively praised the drug in a video last summer that went viral.
The reporter said the newsroom noticed that Dr. Immanuel’s video was getting censored like they’d never seen before, and “we were all stunned by that.”
Hecker said even Schiller thought it didn’t make sense that the story was being throttled, but the station chief, D’Artagnan Bebel, said it was obvious that the media was just doing it to oppose Trump, because he had retweeted Dr. Immanuel touting the drug.
“Whatever he [President Trump] does, everyone wants to do the opposite,” she said.
Hecker was assigned to do a story on the Houston doctors promoting Hydroxychloroquine, and said she did an evenhanded job, as she had cited a study that had showed the drug wasn’t an effective treatment for fighting COVID-19.
She said she was praised at work after the story aired. But things changed after she took to social media to express her thoughts on the censorship of Dr. Immanuel.
That social media post became a turning point for her at the station, she said. “Fox came at my throat for standing up against censorship,” Hecker told O’Keefe.
In a subsequent story, Hecker asked Dr. Joseph Varon, MD, Chief of Critical Care and COVID-19 Unit at United Memorial Medical Center in Houston, about using Hydroxychloroquine to treat patients with COVID.
Varon said that Hydroxychloroquine was “a drug that has been politicized up the wazoo,” but doctors at the hospital were using it to treat COVID patients with great success.
Hecker said she asked the question because she was getting tips from the viewers, and because she had been asked, after all, to go to the hospital and cover how they were treating COVID patients there.
It was after that story aired, that she was told to cool it on the HCQ stories.
“You need to cease and desist posting about Hydroxychloroquine,” Schiller told Hecker in a recorded phone call. “In my opinion, you failed as a reporter, to not know more if you were going to post about Hydroxychloroquine, that you didn’t look it up, and look at the latest research about it. Read the articles!”
Hecker shot back, “I have!”
“There’s a major study in the New England Journal of Medicine on July 23, before that doctor went viral. I mean, you didn’t refer to any of that,” Schiller scolded.
Hecker told her boss that she was aware of the study, which is why she covered the story, and that she had mentioned the study in her story about Dr. Immanuel.
The reporter told O’Keefe that Schiller was trying to shut down an important news story, and that it was just one of many good news stories that had been shut down in the past year.
Hecker said the decision to shy away from the topic alienated the viewers, who were “craving” information about the drug. “And then they see that the news is not covering it, at all,” she lamented. “Does that build trust in the news,” she asked. “No, they alienate the viewers, and they are left believing that the media must be in on some sort of conspiracy because they’re not answering our questions about what’s going on.”
In another phone call recorded by Hecker, Meier told her that she could no longer do stories without one of her superiors signing off on it.
“Industry executives are the people who hire us and keep us employed. That’s the part that needs to make a difference with you,” Meier said. “It’s not just about the viewers. It’s about what out CEO reads. It’s about what our GM reads.”
Hecker told O’Keefe that what Meier was saying was that corporate values at Fox26 were put above the viewers’ interests.
Veritas reporters recorded a member of the Fox 26 news team complaining about how the station has been promoting the COVID vaccines nonstop. The cameraman said that Fox 26 hires kids right out of college to be producers, and “they just regurgitate what they’re fed.”
“At first, he said that covering people getting vaccines made sense because it was a new thing, and “a big deal,” he explained. “But three months later, it’s like, ‘okay, we know. Vaccines. They’re available.’”
Jennifer Bourgeois, Sales Coordinator for Fox 26, told an undercover Veritas reporter that the CDC affects how news stations cover major health issues due to the amount of money they are pour into ad campaigns.
“Yeah, they [CDC] are spending money. They are spending money because they can,” she said. “Yeah, they can. They [CDC] are in the pocket. You know? They’re there.”
“The vaccines seem to be working great for most people,” Hecker acknowledged, “but the fact that they are trying to avoid any negative press about it—they’re not going and looking at viewers’ legitimate concerns about it,” she complained.
“If you want to get vaccinated, that’s great,” she added. “If you don’t want to get vaccinated, that’s your personal choice, but to use the venue of news to try to convince you to do something with your life … that was the journalism school’s definition of propaganda.”
Hecker said that some of the station’s biggest donors also happen to be vaccine companies.
The reporter lamented that her superiors had lost their way and seem to have forgotten that their “first loyalty is to the citizen.”
“Vaccines are a potential money maker for Fox,” she explained. “Fox gets paid for that. As a viewer you need to look at who is advertising on this TV station, and you’ve got to realize — surely that the TV station doesn’t want to hurt its advertisers.”
When asked why she would risk her career and professional reputation to come forward, she said the bias at the network had become too much.
“It affects the viewers. That’s why I’m doing this,” Hecker explained. “The viewers are being deceived by a carefully crafted narrative in some stories, okay? In some areas they do fantastic journalism. For some reason, some of these stories have an incredible slant. If you accidentally step outside [the narrative], they try to internally destroy you — as I’ve witnessed firsthand.”
She concluded, “At this point, I want out of this narrative news-telling. I want out of this corruption. I want to tell true stories without fear of whether it fits the corporate narrative.”
Fox 26 Houston responded to the Project Veritas story through a company spokesperson: “FOX 26 adheres to the highest editorial standards of accuracy and impartiality. This incident involves nothing more than a disgruntled former employee seeking publicity by promoting a false narrative produced through selective editing and misrepresentation.”
Earlier Tuesday, Hecker received a call from a Fox 26 employee who asked to return her reporting equipment to the station.